Tag Archives: NTW

Atypical Plays for Atypical Actors: Selected Plays by Kaite O’Reilly

I’m delighted to make this pre-publication announcement: Oberon books will publish five of my plays and performance texts to coincide with the World premiere of Cosy at the Wales Millennium Centre in March 2016.

The news is so fresh, we haven’t yet settled on the image for the cover. I’ve been liaising with my agents and editor at Oberon about what production photographs to use after drawing up a shortlist by the fantastically talented Toby Farrow and Patrick Baldwin, who documented In Water I’m Weightless (National Theatre Wales) and peeling (Graeae Theatre Company) respectively. Mock-ups of the front and back covers will be made early in the New Year, with publicity bling thanks to Lyn Gardner, theatre critic for The Guardian. My long-term collaborator John McGrath, out-going artistic director of National Theatre Wales and in-coming director of the Manchester International Festival, will write the preface.

What follows is from Oberon books website

9781783193172
Atypical Plays For Atypical Actors is the first of its kind: a collection of dramas which redefines the notion of normalcy and extends the range of what it is to be human. From monologues, to performance texts, to realist plays, these involving and subversive pieces explore disability as a portal to new experience.

Includes the plays: peeling, The Almond and the Seahorse, In Water I’m Weightless, the 9 Fridas and Cosy.

Although disabled characters appear often in plays within the Western theatrical tradition, seldom have the writers been disabled or Deaf themselves, or written from those atypical embodied experiences. This is what contributes to making Kaite O’Reilly’s Selected Plays essential reading – critically acclaimed plays and performance texts written in a range of styles over twelve years, but all informed by a political and cultural disability perspective. They ‘answer back’ to the moral and medical models of disability and attempt to subvert or critique assumptions and negative representations of disabled people.

The selected plays and performance texts exhibit a broad approach to issues around disability. Some, like In Water I’m Weightless/The ‘d’ Monologues (part of the Cultural Olympiad and official festival celebrating the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics) are embedded in disability politics, aesthetics, and ‘crip’ humour. A montage of monologues that can be performed solo or as a chorus, they challenge the normative gaze and celebrate all the possibilities of human variety. The Almond and the Seahorse is different, a ‘mainstream’ character-led realist drama about survivors of Traumatic Brain Injury, with subversive politics in its belly. A response to ‘tragic but brave’ depictions of head injury and memory loss, and informed by personal experience, the play interrogates the reality of living with TBI, questioning who the ‘victims’ are.

peeling, a landmark play written for one Deaf and two disabled female actors, was originally produced by Graeae Theatre Company in 2002, 2003, and for BBC Radio 3. A ‘feminist masterpiece…quietly ground breaking’ (Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman), it has become a set text for Theatre and Drama and Disability Studies university degree courses in the UK and US. Frequently remounted, its lively meta-theatrical form supports its central themes of war, eugenics, and a woman’s control over her fertility, which are as relevant today as ever.

The performance text the 9 Fridas is a complex mosaic offering multiple representations of arguably the world’s most famous female artist, Frida Kahlo, reclaiming her as a disability icon. Performed in Mandarin translation, it was the closing production of the 2014 Taipei Art Festival and will transfer to Hong Kong in October 2016. It is currently being translated into German, Hindi, and Spanish.

Cosy is a darkly comedic look at the joys and humiliations of getting older and how we shuffle off this mortal coil. Three generations of a dysfunctional family explore their choices in a world obsessed with eternal youth, and asks whose life (or death) is it, anyway? An Unlimited Commission, Cosy will premiere and tour nationally in 2016, appearing at the Unlimited Festivals at Southbank Centre and Tramway.

The book will be published 1 March 2016 and is available for pre-orders at Oberon and Amazon

 

 

 

The Price of Self-Employment. Guest blogger: Sophie McKeand

Last spring I met the lovely Sophie McKeand on a Writing for Live Performance  Masterclass I was teaching at Ty Newydd Writers’ Centre on the southern coast of the spectacular Llyn Peninsula in North Wales. I was recently reading her blog and one recent post in particular caught my attention: ‘The Price of Self-Employment’. This is a brave subject – something so important and yet so seldom discussed widely in our industry. I asked Sophie for permission to reproduce her post – and I include details of her biog and links, below:

Sophie: I’m not sure how I imagined the journey when first setting out as a freelance/self-employed writer seven years ago. It’s been a difficult but ultimately rewarding expedition, especially considering the only thought was: forward and onward and don’t look back.

The ego has been shredded, rebuilt, blasted apart, glued back together and shredded again. At 39 I earn a third of the salary I did when I was 27. I don’t own a house or have savings or a pension anymore, and instead of my company car I share an old Renault Espace with my partner (also a freelancer).

I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

Was it Gary Snyder who said we should aim to be ‘famous for fifteen miles’? This is my mantra (although admittedly I work slightly farther afield that that).

Working geographically, as opposed to by genre, means I’m involved in communicating with people across the whole spectrum of my community. Studying to pinpointed PhD depths seems a little redundant here so adopting a more rounded approach means I’ll facilitate poetry workshops with 10 eight-year-olds, or eight ninety-year-olds, or 250 year 7s. I work with people with early stage dementia, NEETS, gifted young writers, adult learners and people with mental health issues. Each group has wildly varying support needs and expectations, and each workshop has to be tailored specifically to meet those needs. I’ll also have at least three or four other workshop plans ready in case of any ‘eventuality’ (yes I have plans B, C, D, E and F in my suitcase every time.

A large percentage of the people I work with have had their enjoyment of literature strangled by a didactic curriculum set by careerist politicians (not the fault of teachers) and this has instilled a fear, not a love, of creative writing. People have become terrified of verbs, pronouns, adjectives, grammar, spelling and punctuation, which is a shame because language is free and belongs to us all.

In these sessions I focus on our shared understandings of language. I want our group to concoct a nourishing, creative stew of ideas, thoughts and imagination to devour. Metaphor, simile and image are the building blocks of great poetry and we all use them, it’s just a case of recognising when we do and learning how to nurture that element of thought.

There is absolutely a skill to being a writer. Developing a philosophy behind the words and understanding the editing process are the next steps for anyone thinking of taking the writing further, but for these initial workshops, for those hours, I want people to forget about how they should write and to just have fun writing.

I’d love to be able to do this for free. Unfortunately that’s not possible. I still have bills to pay. On a good year I’ll earn maybe £14k (pre-tax), on a quiet year £10k (at least then my tax bill is small). I’m lucky my partner in business is also my partner in life, and he’s incredibly supportive. Work wouldn’t be anywhere near as much fun without him and as a freelance partnership (he’s a graphic designer and partner in an independent record label)  we manage to pull in enough to pay the bills and have a comfortable, although not extravagant life.

One of the elements I struggle with most is finding suitable rates to charge. At one end of the scale I’ve been paid £130 per one-hour workshop (fees were set by the project coordinator) and at the other end I’ve been offered £15 for one hour because ‘that’s more than the usual hourly rate for staff here’.

I was very grateful for the former, although I wouldn’t dream of asking for that, but declined the latter. This is not because I’m overly precious or egotistical. When you book me you’re paying for eleven years of work: three years of a degree then a year freelancing whilst working full-time before leaping into full-time-self-employed.

When you book me for a half-day please understand I’ve spent at least that time again planning the workshop, sourcing materials, photocopying/printing, researching and imagining just how it will all come together to create a meaningful experience for your group. When you book me for an hour it’s unlikely I’ll be able to work anywhere else that morning.

You don’t have to think about holiday pay, sick pay, tax, national insurance, maternity pay or public liability insurance. There’s no redundancy package or notice period when you decide to use another freelancer (which you absolutely should to ensure your group/s have access to a full range of styles and approaches). I can’t have a bad day, be ill, have the car break down or have a family crisis on a day I’m coming to you because you might think I’m unreliable and not book me again. Perhaps all ‘arty’ people are like that? No. No we’re not. I’m not even going into the raft of DBS/disclosure certificates I have proving that I’m not a danger to anyone.

On top of that I have to ensure I’m still writing. If I’m teaching something I should be actively engaging with that practice myself, so a ‘holiday away’ tends to involve staying at the oasis of literature that is Ty Newydd for a week. This means I’m confident my writing and workshop facilitation are of a high standard.

I perform at events and festivals, give readings and submit work to various publications because these are the benchmarks supporting my assertion I’m a suitable person to come and work with your group. I also make a point of creating at least one or two voluntary projects in my community each year because it’s an important element of who I am and being self-employed allows me the time to do this.

I wouldn’t change any of this. I love every minute of work and wake every morning knowing that, whatever I’m doing, it’s generating creativity and inspiration in my community. I’ve been involved with truly dedicated people at National Theatre Wales, Literature Wales, Oriel Wrecsam, Age Cymru, The Wales Millennium Centre, The Hay Festival, Barnardos, Clwyd Theatre Cymru, Night Out/Noson Allan and various other local, regional and national organisations over the years, and I’m grateful that most try their best to ensure artists are paid a living wage.

I’m living the dream.

Or at least I’m living my dream of working with words in my community and using poetry as a way to help people find their own voice. Witnessing participants discover the confidence to read out work they’ve just written and knowing I helped them achieve that is, to put it bluntly, totally awesome and worth every penny I don’t now earn.

I know budgets are tight, and this can force people to just focus on the bottom line when considering booking a freelance writer, but having the opportunity to work with a writer, musician or artist on a creative project can  make a genuine difference in people’s lives – it’s changed mine incomparably.

Sophie McKeand biog

Freelance poet and workshop facilitator in Y Gogs. Longlisted for the Poetry Society‘s National Poetry Competition in 2014, published widely including in Poetry Wales, Dark Mountain, Earthlines and Adbusters with new work forthcoming in Tears in the Fence (Sept 2015). Performs regularly at festivals and events such as Wenlock Poetry Festival, Green Man, Wilderness and Dinefwr. Works as a freelance workshop facilitator with Literature Wales, Arts Council Wales, Oriel Wrecsam, Age Cymru, Barnardos and more. Organises National Theatre Wales’ Word4Word in Wrecsam and sits on the ntwTEAM Panel (2014). Dysgu Cymraeg.

http://www.sophiemckeand.com/blogs/index.php

https://goglife.wordpress.com/a

National Theatre Wales First Dramaturgs Group Announced.

Earlier this year I ran a post calling for applications for the first ever Dramaturgs group for National Theatre Wales (NTW). As one of the selection panel, I was keen to get as broad a range of applicants as possible, especially as only four of the six would be writers, the other two members could be from other disciplines – directors, scenographers, designers, composers, choreographers, whatever…. Today the results of our deliberation has been announced, in a blog by NTW’s artistic director John McGrath on the company’s community website: http://community.nationaltheatrewales.org/profiles/blogs/first-ntw-dramaturgs-group-announced

John McGrath writes:

Hi everyone, today we’re announcing the members of the first Dramaturgs Group – chosen from over 30 applicants by a panel of Kaite O’Reilly, Roger Williams, Lisa Maguire and myself. It was a very difficult decision, and we could easily have filled the group three times over, but we’ve tried to come up with a balanced and inspiring selection that will push the debate, and the level of support for writers, forward:

Following an exciting discussion about dramaturgy in Wales inspired by last year’s Dirty, Gifted and Welsh event and continued in our online Writers’ Group, NTW has now appointed a group of six dramaturgs to work with the company over the next year supporting writers and exploring the characteristics of theatre writing in Wales. We had an extraordinary set of applications to join the group – over thirty people put themselves forward, including many fantastic writers. It was genuinely a very difficult decision to choose the panel, but we can now announce that the group for the first year will be:

Janys Chambers, Richard Hurford, Mathilde Lopez, Ace McCarron, Louise Osborn and Gary Owen.

During our online discussion we explored a lot of questions, including the thorny issue of the collective noun for dramaturgs – (I think the winner was ‘a question of dramaturgs’), and the more fundamental subject of what exactly a dramaturg is (‘the guardian of the idea’ was a rather nice poetic response). We also agreed that the group would include 4 writers and 2 theatre makers from other disciplines. So Janys, Richard, Louise and Gary are our writers (though several of them do other things), Ace is our designer, and Mathilde our director. Everyone in the group is actively involved in working with other writers and wrote passionately in their applications of all the things a dramaturg could be. It will be an honour to work with them.

The group will meet four times over the year, and we will share as much as possible of the conversations and conclusions online in the Writers Group. (The group has been so intrinsic to this initiative that it feels, for now at least, like the natural home for these discussions rather than a separate Dramaturgs Group.) Members of the group will also be available to writers who have commissions or seed commissions with NTW to give dramaturgical support.

Of course I hope that this will be an initiative with a future, and that many of the people who didn’t end up in the group this time will bear with us and be part of the wider discussion and potentially join future incarnations of the group.

A big thanks to everyone who did the thinking work to get this off the ground.

In Water I’m Weightless: in development

Nick Phillips and Sara Beer in NTW’s developmental workshop of In Water I’m Weightless.

Many text-based productions are straight-forward in content and form: they are interpretations of existing scripts. So what’s the process for a ensemble piece using music, design, movement and selected monologues, with a newly-formed company who have never all met, never mind collaborated before?

This has been the challenge to National Theatre Wales this week, in development with In Water I’m Weightless, my commission from Unlimited, part of the Cultural Olympiad.

We have a sterling cast of emerging and established performers: Mat Fraser, Mandy Colleran, David Toole, Karina Jones, Nick Phillips and Sophie Stone working alongside director John McGrath, designer Paul Clay, movement director Nigel Charnock and emerging director Sara Beer. It’s a dream creative team – almost an embarrassment of riches – and the prevailing question in the weeks leading to this r&d period was where and how to start?

John decided for us, feeling the actors should lead this part of the process. The text we will eventually use in the production next year will be culled from a large body of work I’ve been developing over several year, The ‘d’ Monologues, which have been created specifically for Deaf and disabled actors. I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about the issues surrounding casting (Cripping up is the twenty-first century answer to blacking up) and John felt this was a creative place to begin. Alongside the texts sent to the cast in advance, John posed several questions, including asking the performers to select parts they’d love to play but would never usually be cast in, and to identify sections which had resonance for them, which felt closest to their ‘voice’.

What followed was a fascinating exploration which challenged casting to ‘type’. As a way in to the work, we cast across gender, age, impairment, and sexual preference, reading the speeches the actors felt they would never usually get to play, making some wonderful discoveries – for example, a middle aged man can play a part written for a child without prompting unintended humour. We also found a universality in this non-traditional casting – our characters became Everyman and Everywoman, rather than the monologues being seen as autobiographical, specific only to that individual.

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Aided by his fantastic music collection, Nigel got the company moving, magically (and almost invisibly) creating shared physical vocabulary, so by the end of the week the actors were presenting physical scores and short choreographed sections. Combined with the projected animated text and live camera work Paul introduced, it was an impressive start to a process.

Those who saw our work-in-progress sharing on Friday were struck by the sense of a tight ensemble dynamic already in existence.

Our only complaint as we parted after the intense week was that seven months would have to pass before we got together again.